Jerry L. Falwell Jr.’s Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia generated $215 million in net income in 2016 on nearly $1 billion in revenue. This tax-exempt nonprofit university’s net assets now exceed $2.5 billion, up from $1.6 billion in 2016. Their recipe? “The booming and lightly regulated realm of online higher education,” mostly subsidized by student grants and loans from the US Department of Education and the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
In the past two years, NPQ has reported on this behemoth in Christian higher education—when some of its alumni protested Chancellor Falwell’s defense of President Trump’s remarks made after the Charlottesville white nationalist massacre; when Liberty hired Baylor University’s athletic director after he resigned in the midst of a “horrifying” sexual assault scandal at the Texas school; and finally, when Falwell strongly encouraged students and staff over 21 years of age to carry concealed weapons on campus.
This educational institution, with up to 95,000 students who learn remotely and 14,000 students who learn on campus, is second in the nation, trailing only the University of Phoenix, in providing online university education.